This morning I woke up in my bed, and looked around in utter confusion. How did I get here? I had no memory — none whatsoever — of retiring to bed last night. All that I remember about last night was: I'd gone up to the bar (without having had dinner — biiig mistake!); I'd had quite a few capirinhas with some friends up there; at some point, I'd changed into my swimmers and jumped into the jacuzzi; and after, I'd gotten out and kept talking to people. Then, my memory stops — completely blacks out. However, after talking to some of my roommates this morning, I think I've got a pretty good explanation of why that is.
Just a quick note about the unbelievable, too-good-to-be-true wine situation here in Argentina. I was talking to someone on the bus today, and they told me that apparently Argentina produces 5% of the world's wine, and that it consumes 5.2% thereof! That is, despite producing a colossal amount of wine, Argentinians nevertheless drink more wine than they make. This would explain why you don't see that much Argentinian wine anywhere else in the world. It doesn't make it out of the country, and into the global export market. It's too good to let the rest of the world get it's hands on — the locals drink the lot! And considering how even the most basic, US$2 supermarket bottle of red tastes absolutely divine around here, I can believe that fact, despite how economically crazy it may sound.
Yesterday morning, my friend Patrick left Baños for the town of Tena, which is about 5 hours east. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I walked into a bar in Baños this evening, to find him sitting down and waving at me! "Patrick?" I said, puzzled. "What the hell are you doing here? I thought you went to Tena!" Well, he said that he came back: they're only offering easy rafting trips in Tena (due to the weather, same as here in Baños), and the road from Tena to Quito is currently flooded — meaning that there was nowhere else for him to come, except back here to Baños. Anyway, I think that when I saw him, I looked like I'd just seen a ghost. Big shock!
Went shopping around this morning, for a ticket on a night bus north to Trujillo. Got to the terminal of a company called Linea at 9:45am, and was given some hilarious news. Their 9pm bus to Trujillo was booked out for tonight: but they had 5 reserved seats that hadn't yet been paid for; and if nobody came and paid for them by 10am, they'd give them away first-come first-serve. So I took the advice of the guy at the desk, and waited for 15 minutes. By 10am, two reserved seats had been claimed, but the other three were up for grabs. I grabbed one of them, fast.
I arrived in Huaraz at 6am this morning, and I discovered once again that in this part of the world, things change very quickly. Some places move. Other places close down. Out-of-date Lonely Planet guides can't keep pace. And at the break of dawn, after spending the whole night on a bumpy bus, it's all just a bit too much to handle. Welcome to Huaraz — can I sleep now?
Iquique is a town at sea level, right on the coast of an extremely earthquake-prone area, full of beaches; so I guess it makes sense that it would be prone to tsunamis. But do they really have to be this blunt about the danger of a wave hitting the town? Makes me feel so safe and reassured, as a tourist walking through the central square, smiling in the sunshine. Anyway, at least if a tsunami does hit, I'll know which way to run. I wonder if that will make the slightest bit of difference, or if I'd still be 90% likely to die anyway?
Our pampas trip group was tired and shagged out, following a prolonged swim with the dolphins (earlier in the afternoon); so this evening, we went out on the river, in search of two good bottles of red wine. Hey, we have two french girls in the group, remember? We already managed to find one bottle earlier today (near where we also found two baby anacondas), but we decided that two more were needed in order to satiate our needs for the evening. So we ended up stopping at every building we saw along the river, and calling out: "hola, ¿tienes vino?" (lit: "hey there, got wine?").
Following our trip to the Sunset Bar, and a formidable spread for dinner, our group got back in the motorised canoe this evening, and cruised through the darkness of the pampas, looking for alligator eyes. It was a very unique and bizarre experience: on the water in the dark of night, with our flashlights searching the shores of the river, looking for pairs of orange eyes reflecting back at us. We spotted quite a lot of the alligators and their highly luminescent eyes; but unfortunately, our guide didn't manage to catch one and bring it on board. Damn: I was so looking forward to having another passenger on board — one with a two-foot-long mouth full of chomping teeth.
After only three days in this country, it's already clear: "en Bolivia, no hay" (lit: "in Bolivia, there isn't"). "No hay" is by far the most common answer to all the many questions that I've asked people so far in this country. Dinner? "No hay". Change? "No hay". Internet? "No hay". Buses? "No hay". Cake? "No hay". Anything to drink, other than Paceña beer? "No hay". Welcome to Bolivia, the country where whatever the hell it is you're looking for, it's guaranteed that you won't easily find it. No matter how simple it seems, no matter how likely you'd think it is that they have it, nope: "no hay".
Our first stop on this morning's boat ride was Los Uros, the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca. The Uros people constructed and moved to the islands hundreds of years ago, in order to escape Inca domination on the mainland. The islands are artificially built out of reeds, which constantly rot and need to be replaced, in order to keep the islands in existence. Amazing place, and certainly a very unique setup.